“Great, that’s my council tax sorted for this month!’
Welcome to the mind of a struggling freelancer upon receiving a paycheque. Where I used to look forward to payday with a rather unhealthy thirst, normally for tequila, I now find myself comparing lump sums of money to various expenses that I need to pay. It’s boring and complicated and grownup and I’m not loving it. I no longer blow my earnings straight away on a big night out and a jacket I’ve been lusting over. Nor am I comfortable with £17 in the bank and no idea where the next job is coming from. My years of being ‘young dumb and broke’ are behind me, or at least, I think they are.
At the ripe old age of 23, no one can tell me that I’m a child anymore. I am already surrounded by responsibility and can’t help but get my future out of my mind. Although I still feel very young, three of my friends have got engaged this year and when I held my cousin’s baby last month I wasn’t totally grossed out. I have a boyfriend of nearly five years, run my own business and am totally responsible for keeping my dog alive, to all intents and purposes I am ‘adulting’. So why do I spend so much of my time waiting for the penny to drop? For everything to fall into a place? For me to make it?
When I was at school I lived with the following hopes and dreams: I will get older, finish school and go to university, I’ll love it, come back to London and find a job that I adore and am excellent at. I will buy a cottage somewhere beautiful, get married, have babies, they will think I’m wonderful and I’ll be a spectacular mother, I will look fantastic, smell amazing, wear a lot of cashmere and then, as I enter my twilight years, I will start drinking too much and embarrassing my grandchildren.
Of course my house would be full of candles and decorated immaculately, my friends, smelling equally amazing, would pop over a lot in the evenings and my hair would probably be blowdried about three times a week. Alex would wear very soft White Company jumpers and the kids would be in mini Timberlands. I’d host dinner parties and wear nice dresses and I’d live a thoroughly enjoyable life.
And although adulthood has done it’s very best to scupper my plans, by relentlessly reminding me that in the real world no one smells that great or actually buys the White Company jumpers, I still hope that one day I’ll be able to pull this off. After all, all the people on Instagram seem to be living my dream.
I live by the logic that one day, I’ll get there. One day I’ll make it. One day I’ll be a successfuly grown up.
But when? By law I’ve been a grownup for a while now. So when will I finally wake up as the swan that I’m so desperate to be? When, if ever, will the expectation of my life become the reality? It’s a conversation I am finding myself having more and more often at the moment with so many of my friends: what does the future look like? “Well, we’ll get married in the next couple of years? Babies by 30? And then out of London not long after I suppose? Only when we can afford it of course…. well, if we can afford it…”
It only feels like two minutes ago I was standing at the hole in the wall trying to work out if I had enough money for the bus home and now Alex is trying to save up for a car. It seems we’re growing up. But at what age will I will be grown? When will I not have to stop drinking, not because I’m too pissed, but because I can’t afford another round? When will I be able to just buy a new toaster without having to budget for one? Will I ever get to the point when I can walk into a shop, see a candle I like and not have to work out how badly my car needs a service before I buy it???
And it’s not just the money thing. It’s pretty much every element of grownupping (new word, love it, use it). When will I stop needing to ring my mum every time the dishwasher beeps in a new way? Or be able to go the gym without needing a round of applause from Alex and my Instagram followers when I get back home again? If I can’t plan my breakfast, how will I be able to plan a wedding and if I lose my phone once an hour what the hell am I going to be like with a child? When will I not need to google about fourteen million things a day and know for sure whether or not you’re supposed to reheat rice? When will I start wearing matching socks, stop getting spots and be able to keep both the tupperware container AND THE LID in the house for more than a day?
Will I ever be able to move to the countryside and find myself a cottage with whatever it’s called growing on the walls (something else I need to google cause I can’t remember shit about plants!), and when I get there will I be able to paint the front door in duck egg blue or will I forever have ‘paint’ on the shopping list? Will I ever be able to stop telling people how much my clothes cost when they compliment something, just so they know that it didn’t cost a lot and I’m not being extravagant? And how on earth are my sister and I ever going to be able to pull off our grownup fantasy of living on the same beautiful road together, loving each other’s kids and cooking dinner for each other when we’re both shit at cooking and laugh uncontrollably every time we think of seals?
I’m not sure there is a person alive who didn’t fantasise about being a grownup when they were a child, and I’m not sure that those fantasies ever truly fade. I thought maybe when I turned 21 or so I might have had to rejiggle a few things, but ultimately I’d be on the path I needed to be. If I’m honest I’m hella pissed that no one thought to tell me on my eighteenth birthday that there was no path. That all you can ever do is your best. That being an adult is very great, but also absolutely nothing like you thought it would be.
Most days I still feel like a kid playing grownups and yet every other day someone asks me how long it will be until I start thinking about kids, it’s a really odd thing.
I wrote last week about how one day the days that we were living now would be the good old days, and I’m pretty sure I was right. Being in your twenties is great, it’s awesome, it’s fun and exciting and mad. It’s also expensive and confusing and messy and painful. I feel like that Britney Spears song “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” Except, I AM a woman. I’m a grownup and the only reason I don’t feel like one is, I suspect, because no one really knows what it feels like. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening, just because it differs to my teenage fantasy, please, at that time I was convinced Alex Pettyfer was going to fall in love with me and he’s engaged to someone else now. If I’ve learned anything it’s that your future is absolutely nothing like you thought it would be.
I was hanging out with a kid the other day and whilst I was scrolling through my phone, terror rising as I realised I had a lot of emails to reply to, he turned to me and asked:
“What’s it like to be a grownup?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve always wanted to ask my parents but I’ve never got around to it before. What’s it like?”
“It’s fun”, I told him “if not a bit stressful sometimes”.
“It looks fun”, he said “you have your own phone, you can eat sweets whenever you want, you can drive AND there are no bedtimes!!”.
Ah, well when you put it like that, I suppose it’s not all bad.